Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s participation in a highly publicized lawsuit to block construction of a 160-foot-tall water tower near his Denton County ranch is over.
Tillerson and his wife have withdrawn their complaint, which they had brought as owners of Bar RR Ranches, according to court records. The Tillersons and other Bartonville landowners, including former U.S. House Speaker Dick Armey, sought removal of a partly built water tower that they said violates local zoning ordinances and is inappropriate for its rural setting.
The Tillersons’ motion to “nonsuit,” or withdraw, their complaint was filed March 19 and approved March 22, according to court records. Another couple that had joined the suit took similar action about three weeks later.
The suit attracted media attention in February after The Wall Street Journal tied Tillerson’s involvement to complaints that Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp.’s tower could be used to supply water for hydraulic fracturing. Exxon and its Fort Worth-based subsidiary, XTO Energy, along with other energy companies, commonly use hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas production, prompting outrage at what was perceived as hypocrisy.
But Tillerson’s attorney, Michael Whitten, told the Star-Telegram at the time that Tillerson’s objection had nothing to do with the possibility that the tower could provide water for drilling activity. A single line in the complaint said such usage could cause heavy truck traffic, but Cross Timbers Water officials said it was unlikely and that the tower was needed to supply residences and businesses, not drillers.
On Monday, Whitten’s office confirmed Tillerson’s withdrawal from the case but offered no further comment. Cross Timbers Water Supply officials could not be reached, Exxon representatives said the company had no comment on what it has termed a personal matter for Tillerson.
The Armeys and two other couples continue to pursue the case. The next scheduled hearing isMay 16 when the court will consider a motion to require demolition and removal of the water tower, according to court records.
The city of Bartonville, between Flower Mound and Argyle, is also suing Cross Timbers Water Supply over the tower, saying it violates zoning ordinances. A Denton County court decision in favor of the water company was reversed by a state appeals court and returned to district court.
Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552 Twitter: @jimfuquay